fring vs. Skype War

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Tom Keating
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fring vs. Skype War

A war between fring and Skype is heating up. fring fired the first salvo when they put out a release claiming Skype was blocking fring. fring wrote:

For 4 years we have led mobile communication innovation, most recently with video calling on any advanced Smartphone and network.

Now that fring expanded capacity to support the huge demand for video calling for all users, Skype has blocked us from doing so.

They are afraid of open mobile communication. Cowards.

Skype's Robert Miller responded that it was untrue they were blocking fring. However, they added "Fring was using Skype software in a way it wasn't designed to be used - and in a way which is in breach of Skype's API Terms of Use and End User License Agreement. We've been talking with Fring for some time to try to resolve this amicably." So it sounds like Skype isn't too happy with fring and could use fring's alleged violations of Skype's EULA as a basis to block fring. In other words, Skype is saying "We're not blocking you, but if we did, it's our right to since you haven't been playing ball with our EULA."

Skype continued:
However, over time, Fring's mis-use of our software was increasingly damaging our brand and reputation with our customers. On Friday, for example, Fring withdrew support for video calls over Skype on iOS 4 without warning, again damaging our brand and disappointing our customers, who have high expectations of the Skype experience.
So Skype feels that due to the popularity of fring's video calling on the Apple iPhone causing fring to be overloaded and removing the video feature could be grounds for blocking Skype? What exactly is Skype saying here? Many popular websites or web-based services get killed by overwhelming traffic. ESPN was overwhelmed by fans awaiting the Lebron James decision, Amazon has had several big news outages, and need I remind Skype of their own worldwide outage story I broke back in 2007? Not to take sides, but the popularity of the fring app should inspire Skype to do better -- not attack fring for their popularity.

The Skype blog post ends with this: "In this case, however, there is no truth to Fring's claims that Skype has blocked it. Fring made the decision to remove Skype functionality on its own."

So it sounds like Skype is annoyed at fring's accusation of blocking, but isn't actually blocking fring. Further, Skype is probably a bit peeved that fring called them "cowards" resulting in Skype throwing a "punch" at fring by accusing fring of impacting the Skype "quality" brand.

It is true that using Skype over fring isn't the same quality has using a Skype client directly. However, users are well aware of that fact. They choose to use fring because it is an all-in-one communications tool that works with MSN, Yahoo!, Skype, and others. Their expectations for VoIP quality using fring have no bearing on the Skype brand. Also, some users have no choice but to use fring on certain mobile phones if they want a certain feature. Video calls aren't yet available on the Skype for iPhone app, while fring does offer(ed) such a feature.

Let's put aside the petty squabbling and both work to create two of the best VoIP applications you'll find. If Skype wants users to use only their application, then perhaps they should emulate some of the best features of fring? First and foremost, put some more resources into developing video capabilities for the iPhone. Skype is notoriously slow when it comes to offering mobile app releases. For example, the iPhone app still doesn't have push notifications (and probably never will due to technical reasons) and the current app doesn't even take advantage of iOS4's multi-tasking feature. I love Skype, but they can do better by focusing on new software releases rather than get in a war of words with fring.

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